The NRL is exploring the option of using next year’s return of the Nines tournament to launch the new Western Sydney Stadium.
With the Nines to move from Auckland to an Australian city when it returns to the rugby league calendar in 2019, NRL.com has been told NRL officials are negotiating a possible deal to open the 32,000-seat stadium with the two-day event.
The original completion date for the new stadium was estimated to be March 2019, however the NRL would need construction to move ahead of schedule to be ready for an early February tournament.
Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are also in negotiations with the governing body to bring the event to their city, with Auckland’s four-year run to come to an end.
NRL.com understands Brisbane is viewed as the front-runner to host the tournament next year, however it could hinge on the future of the struggling Global Rugby Tens tournament, which is the brainchild of Duco Events.
Duco is also the New Zealand-based organisation in partnership with the NRL for the Auckland Nines, however the appetite for its return across the ditch has diminished from both parties.
The NRL is hopeful of a compromise that will likely mean the rugby league Nines is played in Brisbane and Auckland would host the Rugby Tens, which is currently played at Suncorp Stadium on the same weekend the NRL wants to lock in.
However, the Western Australian government, which is looking to attract major sporting events to Perth to fill the new 60,000-seat stadium, is in pursuit of the Nines.
The NRL will play a round-one double-header featuring the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors in Perth next month, and has also secured a deal to play State of Origin at the facility in 2019.
Perth is a huge target market for the NRL, especially with long-term plans of expansion.
The idea of moving the Nines to WA is attractive for the governing body, which also has had some interest from the Victorian government to bring it to Melbourne.
The Nines tournament wasn’t played in this pre-season to allow players adequate rest after the World Cup, but will definitely return next year.
It’s likely the location will rotate in coming years, with Adelaide now a potential future option given the South Australian government has secured the rights to host a State of Origin match at Adelaide Oval in the 2020 series.